If you sat in a moving vehicle watching just the GPS display without looking out the window, how would it change your perception of travel?  My two kids create this virtual journey for themselves on the way to school.  They were fascinated to watch the route were taking, actual speed, and direction of travel.  Suddenly they shouted, ‘you are speeding!’  The GPS listed the posted speed limit on the screen and they noticed that we were now going 40 MPH in a 35 MPH zone.  What they did not see was that we were in a line of traffic that was all moving at this speed. 

One of the challenges with snapshots, dashboards, or any measurement instrument is that they do not tell the whole story.  The GPS unit provides accurate location and selected data.  What is does not address is the environmental issues.  Is there snow on the roads?  Am I being tailgated or is the driver in front directionally challenged?  Is there a passing zone or what is the speed of moving traffic.  If our driving skills were evaluated just in the context of watching a GPS unit there may be periods of alarm.  But when the realities of the real-time variables were considered, an appropriate course of action is being executed.

What do you measure?  How do you evaluate the data?  What questions does it raise?

Open Dashboards

Social sector organizations use dashboards with varying degrees of success.  Some enterprises produce an active dashboard that is the first document that goes to the board and staff at predetermined interval.  Other organizations use a summarizing document to track strategic initiatives.  Another grouping of causes finds dashboards to be distracting and irrelevant to their work.

I have always approached dashboards as an inside/out method.  The data is generated inside the organization and then communicated out to a small group of individuals closest to the organization.  A blog post from Beth Kanter got me thinking about possible paradigm shifts.  

  • What if the dashboard was distributed to a larger audience, say your entire membership base?
  • What if the data on the dashboard was reflective of input provided from the outside (customers, donors, volunteers, community members, partnerships)?
  • What if the dashboard was assembled by a different partner or peer organization?

What information would you choose to include in these scenarios?  What data would be meaningful?  What would be valuable to track if the audience became your entire membership?  What if the dashboard was an outside/in proposition?